Newcastle United hosted Dutch side Vitesse at St. James’ Park on Saturday afternoon in their latest pre-season friendly as they prepare for life in the Championship. Rafa Benitez named a strong starting eleven for the fixture and it was soon evident that The Magpies were technically superior to their opponents. With the 2016/17 campaign getting underway in less than a week away at Fulham, the home supporters were hoping for some positive signs.
A very convincing first half display sure pleased the fans in attendance and Newcastle soon raced into a dominant position. Goals from Dwight Gayle and Jack Colback added to the own goal scored by defender Kelvin Leerdam to send the hosts in 3-0 up at the break. The second period didn’t quite go to plan for Benitez’s men and they gave away two goals via Nathan and Guram Kashia. Despite being disappointed with the nature of the goals conceded, The Magpies reinstated some composure to ensure a 3-2 victory in front of their own fans.
With the referee’s whistle getting proceedings underway, the home side looked to control the ball early on in order to plug gaps in the Vitesse back line. Almost immediately after kick-off, United had a sniff of goal as Dwight Gayle chased a through ball into the box. However, the new recruit was thwarted as sharp goalkeeping allowed Eloy Room to claim the ball at his feet. In the 7th minute, Matz Sels then made a flying save in the home goal to deny Lewis Baker from a free kick.
Up the other end just a minute later, Matt Ritchie had a set piece of his own and he forced Room into a low stop down to his right. As the hosts started to look the more threatening of the two sides, they almost took the lead on 11 minutes as an Ayoze Perez corner was glanced just wide from Paul Dummett. Striker Perez then had a chance of his own during the next move with 17 minutes played, but the goalkeeper was alert once again to spring across to thwart his header.
As the pressure on the away side continued to mount, Newcastle finally made their dominance pay as they took the lead on 22 minutes. Daryl Janmaat created the chance with a clipped ball towards the back post which found Ritchie. The midfielder then struck a low ball across the face and it ricocheted off of the unfortunate Kelvin Leerdam who put the ball beyond his own goalkeeper.
After conceding the opener, Vitesse searched for a route back into the match and they opted to try and control possession in order to do so. Despite enjoying plenty of time on the ball, they failed to trouble the United defence, however. It was instead The Magpies who looked more aggressive going forward and the imposing figure of Grant Hanley went close on 32 minutes as he nodded a header off target.
It didn’t take long for Newcastle to double their advantage, however, as a great turn from Perez engineered some space in the box. Leerdam did manage to poke the ball away from the striker’s grasp but strike partner Gayle profited on the loose ball to fire an emphatic finish into the far corner on 36 minutes. A third was then added just 5 minutes later as Jack Colback met a Perez delivery at the far post to powerfully head past Room. The travelling fans were almost celebrating a goal of their own soon after the restart but Selz and Jamaal Lascelles both blocked strikes destined for the net.
With Benitez’s men already having a commanding lead at the interval, the home fans were expecting more of the same in the second period. They were almost off their feet again in the 50th minute as Perez charged dangerously down the right flank. After beating his marker with sheer pace he delivered a drilled ball into the box, but to his misfortune, Ritchie’s goal bound strike was well blocked from close range.
Just a few minutes later, Vitesse managed to claw a goal back following a well worked corner. The ball eventually found Chelsea loanee Nathan deep into the Newcastle area and the Brazilian prodded the ball past Selz from what looked to be an offside position. However, the linesman remained unmoved on the far side and the goal was given.
With the game approaching the hour mark, the tempo seemed to drop and both sides jostled for possession in the middle of the park. Newcastle still looked the more threatening going forward and Gayle’s energy was giving the Vitesse back four something to think about. However, the Dutch outfit cut the deficit again on 61 minutes as Guram Kashia latched onto a loose ball to slam a strike home after some pinball in the box.
After finding the net twice, Vitesse took the impetus and they almost levelled the score with 70 minutes played as Marvelous Nakamba saw a fierce effort deflected over the bar. A Jonjo Shelvey set piece then caused havoc on 75 minutes but the goalkeeper pulled off a fine reaction save to tip the ball over the bar. From the resulting corner, another opportunity was fashioned but Room got down smartly to stop a Mitrovic header.
In the latter stages of the tie, both sides shared possession and neither really looked like scoring again. The Magpies did go closest after some determined play from Yoan Gouffran, but a fourth goal proved elusive and the action petered out. As the fans warmed up their vocal chords to cheer their team over the line, the players responded by controlling the play before the full-time whistle was sounded at St. James’ Park.
Newcastle United: Selz, Janmaat (Sterry 74), Hanley (Gamez 62), Lascelles, Dummett, Hayden (Gouffran 74), Colback (Shelvey 62), Anita (Saivet 74), Perez (Armstrong 62), Ritchie (Aarons 62), Gayle (Mitrovic 74).
Unused Substitutions: Darlow, Tiote, Thauvin.
Vitesse: Room, Leerdam (Lelieveld 72), Kashia, Kruiswijk, Ota, Nakamba, Baker, Qazaishvili (Foor 45), Rashica, Zhang (Van Wolfswinkel 62), Nathan (Van Bergen 72).
Unused Substitutes: Houwen, Tornes, Faye, Van Der Werff, Oude Kotte, Osman, Koryan, Dauda.